My Wish List for the FDA

by Ellen

Dear FDA,

I know my wish list is long, but in my perfect world, the Food and Drug Administration would concentrate on helping us make informed decisions about the food we choose to eat.  Do you think you could make a few changes?

1) Clearly mark all genetically-modified ingredients on labels.

I’m trying to avoid GMOs and would love to know what crop that corn starch came from.  I know this is a tall order, since so much of our soy and corn has been genetically engineered and then used in just about every type of food imaginable.  If there are some unaltered versions of foods out there, it would be helpful to be able to locate them easily.

Here’s a handy non-GMO shopping guide.

2)  Please choose a uniform name for each food additive.

I get so confused when I have to find something like monosodium glutamate (MSG) under its other names:  yeast extract, sodium caseinate, hydrolyzed protein, gelatin, textured protein, and autolyzed yeast, to name a few.  Then, there are ingredients that may contain glutamate, but we just don’t know.  Here are a few examples:  broth, carrageenan, pectin, powdered milk, barley malt, enzymes, natural chicken flavorings, corn starch, maltodextrin (see more), and spices.

I would really like to know whether the “spices” in my all-natural bacon and organic chicken broth are something like garlic or just a sneaky name for MSG.

See, by law food processors aren’t required to list MSG unless it’s 99% pure monosodium glutamate. Lesser amounts of MSG and free glutamate can be named something else.  It’s the glutamate that’s the health concern, by the way.  Perhaps a good name choice could be simply, “flavor enhancer,” as is standard in Australia and New Zealand.

3) Include a warning box for excitotoxins on foods containing them.

Excitotoxins are neurotransmitters that cause cells to fire rapidly and unrelentingly, until they become exhausted and die.  Glutamate (as found in MSG and other flavor enhancers) and aspartate (in aspartame, the artificial sweetener) are two of the more well-known offenders.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a warning box similar to the one on cigarette packages?   It could look something like this:  “Warning!  This food may promote behavioral problems in your child!”  Or, “Caution:  This food contains excitotoxins, which may cause damage or death to your brain cells.”  Another boxed food could say, “Beware!  Consumption of this food could cause heart arrhythmias.”  How about a warning that long-term exposure to foods containing excitotoxins could lead to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s? (Learn more.)

4) Ditch the industry standard that uses “milk” as a catch-all word.

I would like to know when the “milk” listed in the ingredients of a food has been made from reconstituted skim milk powder.  Oh, and it’s really, really hard to find sour cream and cottage cheese that don’t have skim milk powder added.  The ones that list milk and cream as ingredients, who knows?  Your skim milk may be made completely from powdered milk and water.

5) Remove BPA from anything that touches food, including receipts because we touch them and then eat.

I know this receipt business is being addressed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  After all, the free BPA found on receipts can make it into our environment, polluting landfills and water sources.  However, BPA also affects people directly, when we handle thermal paper receipts.  Some BPA is absorbed by the skin; some makes it into our mouths when we pick up food.

6)  Require the corn refiners to use mercury-free caustic soda in the manufacture of high fructose corn syrup.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, and we don’t need one of the most ubiquitous (and nasty) sweeteners to be contaminated with it.

7) Ban the “and/or” statement on packaged food list of ingredients.

I want to know if the organic corn chips from that particular bag were fried in high-oleic sunflower oil (low in omega-6 fatty acids) or in cottonseed oil (bad news).

Thank you!


Ellen at BodyEarth

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I’m sharing this post on Fight Back Friday, hosted by Food Renegade.

Photo sources:

Mikael Miettinen and Matti Mattila on flickr


MSG: Is This Silent Killer Lurking in Your Kitchen Cabinets,, April 21, 2009.  (accessed 12/2/10)

The Hidden Harms of Excitotoxins, by Megan at, July 24, 2010.  (accessed 12/2/10)

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Comments on this entry are closed.

Betsy December 2, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Sure hope Santa is listening. He should since it is obvious you did your homework and your wants are not frivolous. Thanks for a post packed with good, little known information.

Ellen December 3, 2010 at 6:42 am

Thank you for commenting, Betsy! I know it’s a tall order, but maybe if we all wish upon a star…

Jackie @ Crest Cottage December 3, 2010 at 8:52 am

SO WELL WRITTEN! I love how quickly you got the heart of these wishes. Hopefully more people will see it and be motivated to help. I know I will be sharing it!

Ellen December 3, 2010 at 10:56 am

Thanks, Jackie! I’m really glad you liked it. These truly are wishes of mine and it would be wonderful if more people could become aware of some of the stumbling blocks faced by the consumer.

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